Eritrean asylum seeker is now in Cairo, awaiting deportation to Eritrea after being deported from Israel last Thursday

Despite the UNHCR harsh criticism, last Thursday Israel deported at least one Eritrean to Uganda. Since there is no agreement between Israel and Uganda,[1] he was deported back to Egypt, where he is now detained, at the airport in Cairo, begging for assistance.

The man, Tesfamihret Habtemariam, was arrested while studying at the University in Asmara, and after a long detention, managed to flee Eritrea. Habtemariam arrived in Israel five years ago. Like all other Eritrean, his asylum request was never examined. Several months ago Habtemariam was involved in a scuffle. He was arrested and detained according to the criminal procedure allowing to indefinitely detain any "infiltrator" involved in a criminal activity without trial,

After long months of detention, and after hearing from the Israeli authorities that he will be detained for at least three years, Habtemariam agreed to go to Uganda, hoping he'll be given an opportunity to ask for asylum there. He claims that the Ugandan authorities refused to admit him into the country and said that he will have to be returned to Eritrea through Egypt.

Habtemariam is now in an Egyptian detention cell at the airport, where he learned that he will have to wait for a day or two for a flight to Eritrea. He begged for help from Elizabeth Tsurkov, of the Hotline for Migrant Workers who received his phone number from the Eritrean-Swedish human rights activist Meron Estefanos. Habtemariam said he does not wish to be returned to Israel, since he knows that he will be returned to prison, where he will be detained without trial. Habtemariam insists that his life will be in danger if deported to Eritrea. The UNHCR advises against deporting asylum seekers back to Eritrea as seeking asylum is considered an act of treason by the Eritrean regime. Eritrea, dubbed the 'North Korea of Africa' is ruled by an extremely repressive regime. All Eritrean are forced to serve in the military and those escaping, as well as their family members, risk torture, imprisonment for years, often in inhumane conditions in underground cells.

[1] See answer provided by Minister of Interior Yishai to grilling by MK Dov Khenin, Knesset Protocol, February 18, 2013, page 4: "There is no such thing [of pressuring administratively detained asylum seekers to agree to "voluntary" repatriation to Uganda]. No such thing. There is voluntary leave [of nationals of] northern Sudan and Eritrea, and I am happy that there was voluntary leave of over 1,000 - as I've said - from northern Sudan. Only dozens [from] Eritrea left, and I hope it will be tens of thousands, both from northern Sudan and Eritrea, voluntary leave. And if it won't be voluntary leave, it will be involuntary [forced deportation] to their country or to a different third country, and there is still no third country to sign an agreement with, but I hope we do find other third countries that we'll have an agreement with, and we can transfer the infiltrators from here, from the Land of Israel, to their country or to another country, whether it is done willingly or not - I fully hope that [they will] leave willingly, but we will continue with this policy [of attempting to expel infiltrators], as I've said, with the utmost decisiveness."

For more details:

Sigal Rozen
Public Policy Coordinator
Hotline for Migrant Workers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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